Dancers, from left, Tara Nicholas, Ryan Redmond, Julia Eichten and Nate Buchsbaum rehearse a piece. The group will perform at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday at "Evening of Dance" at Perry-Mansfield Performing Arts School and Camp.

Richard Finkelstein/courtesy

Dancers, from left, Tara Nicholas, Ryan Redmond, Julia Eichten and Nate Buchsbaum rehearse a piece. The group will perform at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday at "Evening of Dance" at Perry-Mansfield Performing Arts School and Camp.

Perry-Mansfield dancers explore new ideas, interpret old works

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Events this weekend at Perry-Mansfield Performing Arts School and Camp:

- "Evening of Dance": 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday at the Main Studio. Tickets are $15 for adults and $10 for children ages 10 and younger

- Community Open House: 1 to 3 p.m. Sunday; FREE. The summer performing arts camp opens its grounds to the community for demonstrations and tours. An intermediate ballet and jazz class is from 1 to 2:15 p.m. in the Steinberg Pavilion; a youth festival rehearsal is from 1 to 3 p.m. in Little Ballet; a rehearsal for "The Pirates of Penzance" is from 1 to 3 p.m. in Louis Horst; and a high school/college dance class is from 2:15 to 3 p.m. in the Steinberg Pavilion. Guided campus tours run every half hour starting at 1 p.m., and root beer floats will be served at the office from 2 to 3 p.m.

"We call it a community open house because it's really a way for us to reach out to the community and open our doors and let people in to see what we do," said Julie Merrill, development director for Perry-Mansfield. Rehearsals and demonstrations are not contrived and are part of the camp's daily routine, she said.

"They're coming out and watching what would be going on if we weren't having open house," Merrill said. The event also serves as a thank-you to the community, she said.

— In her second summer teaching aerial dance at Perry-Mansfield Performing Arts School and Camp, Janet Taisey Craft introduces her students to a new style by showing them a canvas sling and a handhold.

From there, aspiring high school- and college-age professional dancers learn the ropes of aerial dance by swinging from them, creating duet and group movements until, five weeks later, they end up with an original work.

Craft's "Traveler" - inspired by text by travel writer Paul Theroux and set to music composed for the work by faculty member Paula Jeanine Bennett and her husband, Richard Bennett - is one of eight pieces on the program for Perry-Mansfield's annual "Evening of Dance."

The shows are at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday at the camp's Main Studio. Tickets tend to sell quickly and are $15 for adults and $10 for children.

For Craft's students, having to solve problems by getting in and out of hanging canvas slings promotes collaboration beyond normal levels. Craft tapped into that spirit by having her students write journals about the experience of coming to Perry-Mansfield from varying places, working with Theroux's text in the movement and the music.

"They really are getting : experience of what it is to collaborate and create a work," Craft said. Dancers in all pieces are asked to reach outside of their abilities, dance program director Linda Kent said.

The program includes a mix of new works and repertory pieces, offering students the chance to be part of something new or to add their own interpretation to an existing work, she said.

"Each year, when I'm teaching dance : just seeing how much they've achieved and the confidence they're gaining, people leave here changed, they really do," Kent said. "It sort of galvanizes the process for people - this is the way it's going to be to have that professional intensity."

"Evening of Dance" features 37 high school- and college-age dancers, with dances including modern, ballet, aerial and other styles.

Pieces by Robert Battle open and close the night. Battle was a guest choreographer at the first Perry-Mansfield New Works Festival. Excerpts from a Paul Taylor work called "Cloven Kingdom" depict high society and its occasional animal aspects.

Faculty member Nicholas Villeneuve will do a short voiceover during "Suite Jamaica," a piece he choreographed and costumed. The work is high-energy, packing 24 dancers onto the Main Studio stage, Kent said.

Camille A. Brown, guest choreographer at the 2009 New Works Festival, contributed a piece called "Shining Hour" that will feature nine students who worked on the piece during the festival, along with additional student dancers to fill out the lineup.

Jennifer Golonka, a faculty member in her seventh summer at Perry-Mansfield, choreographed a lyrical movement piece called "Redirect." The work features 12 dancers and a lot of push-and-pull motion, depicting a change in life direction, Golonka said.

Ballet faculty teacher Rick McCullough choreographed a contemporary pointe piece called "Rain," inspired in part by the weather in Steamboat when McCullough got to town in June, Kent said.

"We have some amazing dancers this year, and he just pushed them. That's what we do here, is push people to new heights," Kent said.

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